Weekly musings, 6/11/17: the purpose of function
Last Saturday, a man was pushed on to subway tracks at a station in New York City. A professional ballet dancer recovering from a herniated disc witnessed the entire thing. When no one came forward to help, he leapt down on to the tracks, lifted the man up, and, while carrying the unconscious man, used the strength of his leg to perform a deep step up back up on to the platform.* A movie couldn’t have scripted the scene much better,
There is a lot of debate about what it means for fitness to be functional. As long as there is a cross over benefit to movements in real life, it stands to reason the fitness you acquire in the gym has a functional purpose.
Ballet requires the ability to land from jumps with control and from high depths. A large degree of hip mobility is necessary to achieve the artistic expression required to dance at the professional level. Male dancers regularly lift their partners in a variety of ways. (Lifting bodies, I am told, is much different than lifting weights). The ballet dancer’s training translated into a real life situation in a powerful way.
Getting strong improves self confidence. It opens doors to exploring the natural environment more fully. Trusting your legs to lift you up a mountain, for instance, makes climbing up the mountain a lot more enjoyable. Whatever you do in the gym that involves lifting weighted objects will give you strength that translates into real world function. However, if you truly want your strength to be functional, practice moving in different contexts, using your body in varied ways. (And maybe add a bit of jumping in once in a while because jumping, like other movement skills, gets better with practice).
*To read the full article, check it out here: https://nyti.ms/2sFs12E
**If you want to witness the athleticism of ballet in action, I find this one inspiring: https://youtu.be/RJBZWt8lQXk